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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
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Tunisian Spring Is Turning Into a Jewish Winter


Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom is Urging Tunisian Jews to leave while they can.

Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom is Urging Tunisian Jews to leave while they can.
Photo Credit: Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90

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Back in December, Tunisia-born Vice Prime Minister of Israel Silvan Shalom called on the Jews still living in Tunisia to immigrate to Israel. That call was rejected with much derision by the remnants of Tunisia’s once thriving Jewish community.

But with new legislation being proposed in the Islamist Ennahda led government, Tunisian Jews may need to rethink their loyalty to a country that no longer wants them.

The Tunisian Parliament is working to pass a law that will prohibit the import of religious books, kosher food, and even visitors from Israel.

The Jews of Tunisia are working to reach a compromise with the government to prevent the parliament from passing the law in a few months time.

In an interview with Makor Rishon, Rav Haim Biton, Chief Rabbi of the Jewish community in Tunisia said, “Today, the government lets us bring in food, medicine, religious and educational books from Israel. If this law passes, our condition will completely change.”

He continued on to say that they are trying to explain to the government that if the law passes, in a few months from now, their relatives from Israel won’t be able to visit, they will not have much needed kosher food items, and, of course, they won’t be able to bring in religious and educational materials.

Other community members were less optimistic as they believe this is the government trying to cut off Jews from their culture. “Behind this law to prohibit the import of kosher products and visiting relatives is their desire to cut off our connection to Israel,” they said.

In November, Tunisia passed a separate law limiting NGOs to importing medicine only from foreign sources in with diplomatic ties with Tunisia, which, obviously, excluded Israel.

Despite the fact that the new proposed law hasn’t yet been passed, Israeli citizens who have requested permission to visit Tunisia recently have been repeatedly turned down, while eight months ago, they could visit.

Tunisia’s Jewish community is divided over the best way to fight the proposed legislation: quietly and behind the scenes, or with public petitions.

The opposition to the petition proposal sees no chance the law will pass, with less than two months before the end of the term of the interim government. They prefer to keep a low profile and to avoid conflicts with the new government.

Tunisia is set to hold elections on October 23rd, assuming they don’t delay them again as they did in July. If this law passes, it will be a clear failure of Tunisia’s fledgling democracy and its ability to protect the basic rights of its minority citizens.

At its peak Tunisia had 110,000 Jews. Fewer than 2000 Jews remain today in one of the Diaspora’s oldest Jewish communities, which some sources say was first settled by Jews around the time the First Temple was destroyed.

Twenty-five hundred years ago, the Levites living in Djerba, Tunisia, didn’t listen to Ezra the Scribe’s call to return to Israel. Maybe this time Tunisia’s Jews should listen to Silvan Shalom.

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19 Responses to “Tunisian Spring Is Turning Into a Jewish Winter”

  1. Ahmed Medien says:

    Uhm, dear Stephen, we are not going to have elections, no. The speaker of the interim-parliament has declared previously in the press that the new constitution might be ready by October 23rd (i.e. this will might be passed by then) but then isn't likely to happen. Such law will not pass as Tunisia will always be concerned to polish its image and avoid criticism especially from you guys? Anyways, if the parliament decides to ban these things, I'm sure the Jews can always sue them and win. This law is discriminatory against some citizens. It will not be passed.

  2. Stephen Leavitt says:

    You might want to read this:

    http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-trouble-with-tunisian-values/2012/09/02/2/

    But still, we hope it won't pass. it wouldn't be a good sign.

  3. Seems like it is high time to turn Tunisia into an abandoned underground parking lot.

  4. Princess Haim says:

    oh(

  5. Brothers and Sisters it is TIME TO GO HOME.

  6. Wayne Wilson says:

    Leaving Egypt, once and for all, sounds like it is time, yet again. How many Exodus' must we have before we realize that we are not wanted there.

  7. Ahmed Medien says:

    I read that on the the Gatestone Institute's website some 10 days ago. Well, this happened. This has been going on for more than a year now. I, frankly, don't know why it still keeps happening with no public consequences taken til now. I can tell you though that Salafis (the hardcore Islamists) are the number one target of the current regime right now. They get arrested all the time. However, incidence like this keep happening and no one takes charge, and I can't say anything about this regard. All, I can say is that is isn't definitely the first piece of media that I see about insignificant, moot silliness that is going on right now in the Arab world. The law won't pass. I mean we don't even have any relations whatsoever with Israel. What are trying to do now. We can debate this if you're interested in that.

  8. Ahmed Medien says:

    That sounds very mean. Maybe I shall proceed by questioning the number of casualties of the Holocaust to get back at cha? How insensitive.

  9. Ahmed Medien says:

    How about you take advantage from the pro-democracy movements in these countries and actually try to make a change? Try to make a voice? an advocacy group? Make the world hear about it? Or let people know why it is wrong? Educate the people? Maybe you'd wanna help people widen their perspectives and stop it with their government crap that they have been ingurgitate.

  10. Ahmed Medien says:

    have been ingurgitating* for decades now.

  11. Chaiya Eitan says:

    GET OUT….IMMEDIATELY! Come to Israel!

  12. Chaiya Eitan says:

    I hope you're right, Ahmed. But I still say that they should leave and come here.

  13. Chaiya Eitan says:

    Those who are truly interested in a real democracy have been taken advantage of and then shunted to the side. Look at what happened in Egypt. They aren't enough to fight against the Islamists.

  14. Chaiya Eitan says:

    Ahmed Medien And by the way – my husband was born in Tunisia…came to Israel with his family when he was five. Their original name was Mettoudi. Does that name sound familiar to you?

  15. Chaiya Eitan says:

    Ahmed Medien You don't even live there any more. How do you know what's going on there?

  16. Stephen Leavitt says:

    Tunisia looks to me like it can go either way. But, unlike Egypt, it actually has a real chance to not turn Islamic.

    (My in-laws are all from D'jerba. Some of them even visited their home town around 2 years ago. But apparently they can't do that anymore).

  17. Elyes Chelbi says:

    the Tunisian jews are in there homes they will not need your invitation you guys are pathetic to compare a peaceful Djerba to a stolen land .Jews are welcome but Zionist can stay the hell out of Tunis . if you are in isreal you are a zionist not a jew

  18. Chaiya Eitan says:

    I am a proud Zionist and Jew. We stole nothing…we have returned to our Homeland. It is the Arabs who are the usurpers. You are ignorant. You know nothing about Jews or Israel.

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